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Fighting cancer changes outlook; Amanda Campbell back on the track for Mercy

The pentathlon always appealed to Amanda Campbell's competitiveness. With seven events there are seven chances to score, seven chances to compete aside from just the final point total.

But this year, it's not just about competition. It's about opportunity and seven chances to get a new start.

Campbell, a former standout at Lockport, sat out her junior season at Detroit Mercy. She competed in the first two indoor meets in 2010, but in December she started to feel tired and had gained some weight. Doctors noticed swelling in her lymph nodes and at first prescribed antibiotics. When by spring break she was no better, she had more tests and received her diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

"I kind of knew something was wrong and I was prepared for the worst mentally," Campbell said. "When you Google your symptoms, it's the worst thing you can do. When they told me what it was, I was thinking, all right, get this out of me as fast as you can."

Campbell elected to have her surgery in Detroit. She returned home and began walking on a treadmill with the help of staff at Ultimate Physique in Lockport. She was able to run the open mile in the home opener of Detroit Mercy's outdoor season last year.

Her running stopped again over the summer when she continued treatments at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and underwent physical therapy as the surgery left her with nerve damage in her neck and shoulder along with some damage to her vocal chords.

"I had to learn to breathe again while running, and that's been the hardest," Campbell said of returning to the track. "Some days I still struggle with breathing right. But I didn't let it limit me. I came back and didn't act like anything was wrong. I wanted the freshmen on the team to have no idea that anything was different."

But things were different. Her attitude had changed. She was passionate about her sport and being part of the team and spoke up when her teammates were struggling.

"Our team talks a lot with each other and at one point people were getting down on themselves," Campbell said. "I told them that I realized how much I wanted to be a part of this. I could have given up and not come back to school. I graduated in three years, but I chose to come back and compete. I really realized my love and passion for the sport."

That love and passion has translated into success. She finished fifth in the pentathlon at the Horizon League indoor championships -- her best finish and first time she scored points for her team at the conference meet. She had also set her lifetime best in the pentathlon with 2,809 points and a second-place finish at the Youngstown State National Invitational in February.

The difference is her approach to the event. Seven events means not just seven chances to compete, but seven chances to start over.

"I'm more positive and that has really helped," Campbell said. "It's really easy if you screw up in one event to get down on yourself and be bummed out for the rest of the events. I used to be something like that. Now, I'm done and just stay pumped and positive through the whole thing. "

Campbell is working on her master's degree in business administration. Since she took a medical redshirt, she will return for her fifth year of eligibility next year.


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